Eased out of the NYPD, lawyer/shamus Stone Barrington (New York Dead, 1991) is free to mix with an even sleazier crowd: a vicious pair of blackmailers and their equally slimy victims. Stone's client, gossip columnist Amanda Dart, has no rivals in dishing dirt on New York celebs until the faxes headed ""DIRT"" start to spew from her own machine. The faxes know about her cozy liaison with an out-of-town developer; they know who she had dinner with, and who each of her dinner guests is sleeping with; they know that she's hired Stone to stop the flow of faxes; and they gleefully predict that it won't do a bit of good. Meantime, DIRT is also being dished on American Infiltrator editor Allan Peebles, a cut below Amanda in class and courage; and DIRT is warming up for the coup de grace against a third target. Stone isn't taking all this unauthorized faxing lying down, of course; he's allowing Amanda to seduce him, putting the moves on aspiring journalist Arrington Carter, and even (in Woods's most hilariously gratuitous scene) getting naked with a suspect's sister. In between bouts, he's discovering a passel of wiretaps encumbering the privacy of himself and those who sign his paychecks, and sending a retired NYPD colleague out on a surveillance detail that'll end in the morgue. The first half of the novel, highlighted by the bevy of willing, well-toned women taking their turns at Stone's shrine, is confidently, even amusingly predictable. But once Amanda's publisher Dick Hickock, presumably impressed by Stone's flurry of activity, decides to hire him on his own hook, the case begins to fall apart, as Stone's clients begin to pull in contrary directions and finally take matters into their own vigorous, aimless hands. Unmoored from their formulaic roles, Woods's tawdry avengers don't have enough substance to go it on their own. Besides, it hardly seems fair to the poor blackmailers when they're badly outnumbered by well-armed victims too despicable to root for.